Italian Greyhounds/Potty Issues and Training
I have two 1.5 year old IG littermates (male and female) that I purchased together at 8 weeks. The past year and a half has been extremely difficult training them and housebreaking them.
At this point, most of the issues are addressed, like constant play fighting. It's not entirely clear which one is dominant, but I think it's the female. Getting their attention during training and even in the house was very difficult. They are smart, but easily distracted around each other. Needless to say, purchasing two at once was a mistake and I discourage anyone who might want to do that.
The reason I am writing is because potty training has been extremely frustrating, to the point where I am considering giving them up. When I purchased them at 8 weeks, from a breeder who wasn't reputable, they had no sense of cleanliness. They were eating their feces, etc. They also both came with Giardia.
I initially set them up in their own 4' x 4' ex pen and litter box trained them until about 8 months. I would often find them sleeping in the litter box burrowed under a blanket.
Then I slowly started taking them outside, shrinking the ex pen. Now they are in medium sized kennels. They are very happy in their kennel.
The main problem is that they still pee and poo in their crate. I am forced to take them out every 4 - 5 hours for potty. This is unsustainable. Additionally, they poo and pee overnight almost every night. I use a diaper for the male and he still pees into the diaper. The female does a bit better in the crate, but she still pees and poos if she has to.
There have been select nights, probably 10% of the time or less, where they will go 10 or 12 hours without pee or poo in the crate overnight.
I am at my limit dealing with these issues. I've come a long way with these dogs, but I have no more patience left. I've heard all the same advice from many trainers on potty training, but these two dogs aren't typical. They have no sense of cleanliness, and frankly don't care if they sleep in poo or pee. I'm looking for some much needed advice on how to train them to be clean and hold their poo and pee.
I've also wondered if they are marking because they are still trying to establish a hierarchy. Who knows. At this point, I need serious help. Either way, this just doesn't seem right. The vet hasn't seen anything wrong and even bladder tested the male. This appears to be a very nonstandard issue and will probably need a nonstandard solution or someone who really understands what is going on.
I am sorry that you are having difficulties such as these with your IGs, I definitely understand the struggles having had them as well. I apologize for the delay in responding.
As you are well aware, IGs are the most difficult breed to potty train that I have ever owned and 80% successful is considered potty trained in the breed. It sounds like you have done everything correctly. They were raised initially in an unclean environment which will impact their future cleanliness since the mother typically teaches them by keeping the puppies and the puppy area clean. It sounds like that didn't happen in your instance.
One suggestion I would try is getting a puppy pen and not crating them any longer. I know that it is preferred to crate them but everytime they defecate in their crate it only reinforces the behavior and makes it that much harder to correct - if it is possible to correct. If they are "chewers" that would chew through a soft pen, then there are wire puppy pens you can get (called Xpens) and then you can put a cloth or net over the top of it so they can not jump out. If they are no risk of chewers there are soft sided play pens that have tops and bottoms that will ensure if they do potty, it doesn't damage your floor. This is what I use for my IGs that cannot hold it in a crate.
Next I would recommend going back to the basics. Either you could use paper potty pads or buy reuseable (like hospital bed pads)that they can potty on. Set up the pads on one half of the bed and then a dog bed on the other half - thus allowing them a place to potty that is separate from their bedding.
Remember, that 1.5 year old IGs are still babies. They don't mature until after the age of 3, so they are still toddlers in every sense of the word and will act as such. Give them a couple of toys to play with in the playpen and also some things to chew on. It sounds like you have them on a feeding schedule so they should be needing to go potty regularly, if not then get them on a feeding schedule so you can monitor the intake, thus timing when they will need to go outside. At their age, they will probably do best eating 2x per day, a set amount. With a playpen, the only time they should be allowed out and in the house is when they are trustworthy to go out in the house, otherwise they are in the pen or umbilical'ed to you. Umbilical is a training technic that you tie them to you (leash through a belt loop is perfect) and they are with you at all times so if they try to do something undesireable, you can correct it on the spot and immediately take them outside so they get the message. This training can be arduous, but is well worth it and I use it for every puppy, and rescue dog that comes in so that they learn the behaviors I will accept and not accept quickly. Also, when they go potty on the potty pad or outside and you catch them doing it, praise them, let them know that is what you expect and they should want to do it more once they understand this is what they expect. Also keep treats in your pocket for rewards when they do well. if you have a clicker, you can use this to also alert them when the behavior is correct. It is important to correct them on the spot though, if they do it and you find it later, you can't reward them for that because they won't understand what they are getting rewarded for, and this could compound your IG's struggles.
Marking unfortunately is very very hard to break once it has been started. you will have to scrub everything they have marked down to get rid of the smell otherwise they will keep going back to mark it over and over. The umbilical training will help with this and the diaper you have your male wear also helps. I suggest you consider buying baby diapers (size 3 usually works) and leaving them folded, and using as a doggie diaper. I use masking tape to put them on, then just rip the tape when they go outside, retaping it on when they come in until it is soiled and cannot be reused. These are disposable - less messy - and much less hassle than using the cloth doggie diapers that must be washed constantly. The only suggestion I have for the marking is the umbilical training and immediate correction when they try to mark. There is a dominance competition with them marking but that dominance issue might be with you as the pack leader. They may be trying to establish themselves as higher in the pecking order. I hate to tell you though, it is very very difficult to break this completely when they have been doing it for a long time and it will take absolute determination on your part.
I am sorry again that you are having such difficulties with your IGs but potty training is the number 1 reason that they are relinquished and it isn't surprising that they are defecating where they sleep if they were kept that way as newborns, it is what they were taught. I hope you give a couple of these ideas a try before relinquishing them, but if you do decide to relinquish them, make sure you go to a breed specific rescue group, not to a local shelter so that they get the special care they need specific for their issues and they are not adopted out to just anyone, but someone that understands these difficulties as well as you do so they know what they are getting into. If you haven't considered it, you may want to separate them and see if they can be separated. It might be easier on your training as well as them to have on separated and rehomed and the other then you can work with full time. I know this isn't ideal, but it would allow you to focus on one of them while finding expert help for the second. If they are not fully bonded, this would be much easier on them as well.
Please let me know if I can help further. I apologize that I couldn't give you better news that there was a quick easy fix for this, but these are IG's -- stubborn, cat-like, and mule-headed. :) I wish you the best of luck with these two, it is apparent they are in good hands and you want to do what is best for them.